Wee Trees Bonsai Help Forum Advice for all

? Dying bonsai
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Author:  BigRy [ 18 Mar 2010, 12:08 ]
Post subject:  ? Dying bonsai

Hi guys, im new to the forums but thought id better ask some experts help before its too late for my tree

Ive been interested in bonsai for years and this xmas my girlfriend bought me my first, a zelkova from homebase! It was about 40cm tall including the pot and had been greatly reduced (pricewise) at hb due to not selling. As u can probably imagine it was a rather messy beast but i instantly fell in love haha

Since then i have read a lot and bought all the tools. I drastically trimmed a lot of branches off as they had been bent at horrible angles (almost right angles!). i also chppoed the top of as this had split into two about 2/3 of the way up and was leaning very off center. The tree seemed much better for it and new shoots were appearing everywhere. After reading about pruning i decided to repot and root trim straight after.

First up i got 'bonsai soil' from my local b&q but this was very wet the whole time and didnt drain at all. I read that this was a prob with bought soils from garden centers. I then read about tesco cat litter as a soil, after reseraching i repotted the tree into it. However i hadnt realised you needed to sieve out the large parts. I left the tree for a few weeks and it seemed ok, new shoots growing well but there was white mould/mildew on the nebari. I read that as i hadnt sieved, the small particles were probably trapping water and causing the dampness and hence the mould

I then repotted again, this time sifting out all the fine particles. Since then all the lower leaves have dried and curled and are now falling off! The mildew has returned and no new shoots have appaered at all. I have left it for another couple weeks to see if it will improve but i noticed last night that the leaves on the top branches are beginning to get a few curled leaves too. I am very worried and so i though id better ask for some before its too late. Im not sure if ive repotted too many times, or have i sifted out too many finer particles? Do i need a different soil mix? I know the tree lost all its leaves when i first had it, but i heard they do this with stress so could it be doing this again?

Many thanks for your help

Author:  John Farnan [ 18 Mar 2010, 12:26 ]
Post subject:  Re: ? Dying bonsai

Hiya and welcome to the forum

As you got it from Homebase i would imagine you are in the UK

These are pretty tough as a tree but repotting twice in quick succession was not the best of ideas, but hey its been done so cant go back and change time

If you could post some pictures that would be a great help

leaves curling up can be one of many things.

Scratch the bark at a high point on the tree to see if its still green underneath, if it is then the tree is still alive if its gone brown the prospects are not so good.

If there's life then there is hope and with the season for growth coming upon us fast it may spring back into life again

Author:  hungkuen [ 18 Mar 2010, 12:34 ]
Post subject:  Re: ? Dying bonsai

whatever you do dont repot it again, more than once is too much and will have stressed the tree, how long did you leave it between repots? this is more than likley going to be the problem..

you dont say where you are based, or where you keep you tree..it sounds as if its inside from your description and the mold/mildew is likely to be a lack of airflow arround the tree.

can you post a pic so we can see how bad it is, this may help someone to give you a solution if its not to late already..

good luck and welcome to wee trees..

Author:  BigRy [ 18 Mar 2010, 12:57 ]
Post subject:  Re: ? Dying bonsai

Wow, thx guys for the quick responses

I'll take some piccies tonight and put them up asap.

Yeah i live in the uk, and i keep the tree indoors. Its on the coffee table near a sunny bay window in an open plan lounge so i assume light is ok. I did worry about repotting so quickly but after eading about not sieving the soil/litter first i thought it was necessary. I left it probably about 2/3 weeks between the repots.

As for scratching the bark, just my fingernail ok or do i need to use a particular tool?

Author:  BigRy [ 18 Mar 2010, 14:47 ]
Post subject:  Re: ? Dying bonsai

Looking at the photos for Ulmus parvifolia, im sure you're right as i remember matching my tree to my reference books and it looked more like a chinese elm than zelkova :) gotta love homebase!! I agree they are rubbish and wouldnt buy a tree from there again. As i said earlier the branches were so hideously bent that it didnt look natural, it had a huge scar just before the trunk split, the soil was rock hard so water couldnt penetrate and it was so root bound that they had doubled back on themselves and were pertruding up from the soil.

I really hope i have got time to nurse this tree back to full health, with hindsight maybe i shouldve asked for advice before!

Author:  Jerry Norbury [ 19 Mar 2010, 09:13 ]
Post subject:  Re: ? Dying bonsai


It will be Ulmus and not really a Zelcova. They are named zelcova to get them into the country. Zelcova are relatively quite rare and don't show up much...

The roots are bent usually as a result of being stuffed into a little pot after having spent its life in a field in China and not as a result of growing in the pot.

Bent branches are not bad per sé.

Photos would help.

Author:  BigRy [ 19 Mar 2010, 16:43 ]
Post subject:  Re: ? Dying bonsai

Ive taken some pictures on my iphone this morning so here they are.....

Due to the max file limit i had to crop them down, so i hope they are ok.

I scratched off a small piece of bark (4mm x 4mm) last night from about an inch from the top of the tree and it seemed green to me, i hope this is a good sign!

As for the bent branches, i understand bends are normal but most of the branches on this tree came out from the trunk and then after about a centimeter theyd been bent at a right angle, to be heading straight to the floor. Most had very bad wiring scars on the bend as well and they looked very unnatural. If you dont mind me asking, why do they name them zelkova to get them in? is it to do with tax/duty, or something else not to do with money :)


Author:  Steve [ 19 Mar 2010, 16:52 ]
Post subject:  Re: ? Dying bonsai

Looks like it was getting dry. It is really in this tree's best interest to be outside.

Author:  Jerry Norbury [ 19 Mar 2010, 16:58 ]
Post subject:  Re: ? Dying bonsai


Green is good brown is bad, so you're in business. The healthy leaves do look healthy.

The crispy leaves have the look of leaves which have either been in hot sunlight (unlikely, right?) or in a draught or dried out. Are you sure that this tree has not recently dried out again?

I bet you could stand back a bit and take a photo of the whole tree for us too...for the full assessment.

Ulmus (Elm) was on an import restriction list for a few years so suddenly "Zelcovas" started arriving...

Author:  BigRy [ 19 Mar 2010, 17:29 ]
Post subject:  Re: ? Dying bonsai

I did take a picture from further back but you really couldnt make much out at all as it is too far out. Ill try and get another one tomorrow, see if thats any better.

It hasnt been in hot sunlight at all as the uk has awful weather at the moment haha. I water when needed, only putting enough in till it starts dripping from the drainage holes at the bottom.

The crispy leaves have only happened since i repotted (again!!), i kept the roots moist whilst doing it. Could this be damage from drying out during the repot that is not fatal to the tree, but just that area?

Also any ideas what is causing the mould, as i would have assumed that it would be to do with too much water rather than drying out.

Have to say jerry that i looked at your link and you have some beautiful trees mate!

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